Frogsleap Farm

Frogsleap Farm

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The World of Tomato Breeding

Freckled Strawberry
Tomato breeding is big business.  A few of the big multi- national seed companies have large tomato breeding programs, as do a number of more specialized tomato/vegetable seed companies (U.S., Europe, Asia and Israel) and a few public universities.  Their focus has been on tomatoes specifically designed for three markets: processing tomatoes for sauce, paste, catsup, etc.; "green and gassed" tomatoes that are picked green for shipping, then gassed with ethylene near their end destination to "ripen" (these are the typical grocery store and food service tomatoes that look OK, but taste like wet newspaper); and the vine ripened cluster, grape and cherry market grown in mild climates or greenhouses and shipped to grocery stores (e.g. produced in Mexico and shipped to the U.S. year round).  The market that is largely ignored by this industrial breeding effort is the fresh market tomato, picked when ripe, and either eaten by the producer (you and me) or sold at local markets, restaurants, etc.  That's the niche we, and a handful of other talented small scale breeder/producers, are targeting.  If there's a common theme to these small breeding programs it's tomatoes that taste great and look interesting (check out the Wild Boar Farms site).

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